Salary hike denied
Menominee County votes against raises for elected officials
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 7:00 PM
CEDAR RIVER - By a 5-4 margin, the Menominee County Board of Commissioners voted against giving the county's elected officials a raise in 2014.
The issue was discussed at the first county board meeting held at the Cedarville Township Hall Oct. 8, but not as an action item.
Tuesday, when it appeared on the agenda for a vote, it was brought up early in the meeting - during public comment.
Lin Peterson, Cedarville Township supervisor, asked the commissioners to reconsider what many of them had said Oct. 8 about holding the line on raises.
Peterson said that the township board had tied raises for its officers to cost of living increases or union raises to employees to avoid the assumption by some constituents that giving elected officials raises is "greedy."
"We are all managing our assets, and people are our assets," she said. By never giving elected officials raises, she said it created an environment where fewer people sought the positions.
She said that attempts to deny the county's elected officials a 2 percent raise in 2014, which was the same as was negotiated with employees and department heads, was political, and asked the board to take the politics out of the decision.
Commissioner Bernie Lang, who spoke against the cut at the Oct. 8 meeting, said that the county had traditionally mirrored the amount of the elected officials' increase with the negotiated employee increases, which in this case, amounted to 2 percent.
"The 2014 budget was approved with the 2 percent built in for the elected officials' (salary increases)," he said. "As far as I know, they've all done a good job."
The elected officials include the county clerk/register of deeds, county treasurer, sheriff and prosecuting attorney, as well as the commissioners, the board chairman and the drain commissioner.
In past years, the commissioners have held their own salaries level while approving the increases for the four major elected positions.
Commissioner James Furlong, who was absent from the Oct. 8 meeting, said he agreed with Peterson that keeping the salaries current contributes to bringing "quality people" to the positions. "I think it is short-sighted not to give the elected officials 2 percent."
Board Vice Chairman Larry Schei said he is as concerned as anyone about keeping the county budget tight, especially with the underfunded retirement plan. He said he was not in favor of increasing the commissioners' or the drain commissioners' salaries, but thought the board should support the 2 percent increase for the other elected officials.
"We had eight budget meetings and approved all that in the budget," he said of the 2 percent amount. "I don't believe we did that correctly." Schei said the finance committee should have been straight about wanting to cut the increase, and should not have strung the matter out for months, only to cut it after the budget was approved. If the county wanted to withhold the increases, it should handle the matter differently next year, he suggested.
"We're penalizing the elected officials after the fact," he said. "It's a kick in the (%&@) for them to do it this way."
Commissioners Jerry Piche, Jan Hafeman and Chris Plutchak spoke in favor of refusing the percentage increases.
"Look at what we are talking about (the retirement underfunding) and the ways to get this under control," Piche said. "We have a hiring freeze. (Let's get) the unfunded liability under control, and then give raises."
"I have to agree with Jerry," Plutchak said. "We have a hiring freeze on. Menominee schools are talking about a 5 percent pay cut for teachers. They're going backwards, and on the county level, we're taking their tax dollars and moving it forward. A hold is one thing ... they are talking about a 5 percent cut."
The board took a vote to keep the salaries at the same level as 2013, with Piche, Hafeman, Plutchak and Commissioners Charlie Meintz and John Nelson voting in favor. Lang, Furlong, Schei and Commissioner Doug Krienke voted against the motion.